If you know a Veteran, please forward this issue to them (you can sign up for my mission reports here). There are some important updates, resources and information they can use.
In this Update:
PA Military Finance Event on Oct. 13: Making $ense of Finance
Register here for this FREE event for veterans and their families, including lunch and parking.
Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grants Awarded
Last month, awards were announced for the national 2022 Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grants Program (SSG Fox SPGP).
The SSG Fox SPGP enables U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to provide resources toward community-based suicide prevention efforts to meet the needs of veterans and their families through outreach, suicide prevention services and connection to VA and community resources.
In alignment with VA’s National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide (2018), this grant program assists in further implementing a public health approach that blends community-based prevention with evidence-based clinical strategies through community efforts.
The grant program is part of the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019, signed into law on October 17, 2020.
The VA has awarded $52.5 million to 80 awardees in 43 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa for services in fiscal years 2022 and 2023. Three of those awardees are in Pennsylvania: Philadelphia’s Veterans MultiService Center, Inc. ($740,211); Carbon County’s Penn Foundation Inc. ($532,424); and Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, Inc. ($750,000) which serves all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Organizations eligible to apply for grants include incorporated private institutions or foundations; a corporation wholly owned or controlled by an incorporated private institution or foundation; Indian tribes; community-based organizations that can effectively network with local civic organizations, regional health systems and other settings where eligible individuals and their families are likely to have contact; and state or local governments.
For more information about the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program, contact us at VASSGFoxGrants@va.gov.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Dial 988 and then Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.
Mission Daybreak Finalists for $20 Million Veteran Suicide Grant Challenge Announced
In June, this mission report mentioned the VA’s open invitation to innovators across the country to participate in Mission Daybreak, a $20 million challenge designed to help the VA develop new suicide prevention strategies for veterans.
Last month, 30 finalists, each of which will receive $250,000 and advance to the Phase 2 virtual accelerator program, were announced. Another 10 applicants, in recognition of their solutions, will each receive a Promise Award of $100,000.
The Phase 2 accelerator is designed to help the 30 finalists develop ambitious but achievable roadmaps for prototyping, iteration, testing and evaluation. Technology partners supporting the accelerator include Amazon and Microsoft.
In November 2022, finalists will present their solutions to key stakeholders, investors and partners at Demo Day, a live pitch event. Phase 2 will award $11.5 million in prizes: Two first-place winners will each receive $3 million, three second-place winners will each receive $1 million, and five third-place winners will each receive $500,000.
Warrior Expeditions Helping Veterans Transition to Civilian Life
Warrior Expeditions is a veteran nonprofit outdoor therapy program that helps veterans transition from their wartime experiences through long distance outdoor expeditions.
The group was recently mentioned in local Pennsylvania news thanks to one veteran, former Army Sgt. Kevin Wilson, and his personal journey that has him hiking through our commonwealth. Kevin is hiking the 1,300 miles of the September 11th National Memorial Trail, which runs through the 9-11 memorials in Shanksville, New York City and at the Pentagon.
Kevin started his trek at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Aug. 24 with his guide dog, Calvin. Last month, Kevin and Calvin got to Shanksville and the Flight 93 Memorial on Sept. 11 and he’s now walking through Pennsylvania on his way to Manhattan.
He’s said he’s shooting to finish the hike around Nov. 15 and I wish him well in this and his future endeavors.
Since 2001, over 3 million veterans have returned home from war but many of them have never transitioned from their experiences. The Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that up to 20% of post-9/11 veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Recognizing the therapeutic value of long distance outdoor expeditions, Warrior Expeditions created the Warrior Hike, Warrior Bike and Warrior Paddle Programs to help veterans transition from their wartime experiences.
$203,300 Grant Will Help Maintain ATV Trails in McKean County, Help Veterans
Earlier this summer, it was announced that Majestic Kamp & Lost Trails, Inc. received a $203,300 state grant for purchase of new bulldozer equipment to maintain its roughly 67 miles of ATV trails in Otto, Keating and Foster townships, McKean County.
Late last month, I had the opportunity to visit Majestic Trails and see where the grant money will be spent, as well as hear details about future plans.
During my visit, we traveled to Majestic’s Memorial Garden, which honors veterans as well as Tom Fitch (the owner’s husband that passed January 2018) who served in the US Army from 1960 to 1968. An honor guard and rifle squad, with members from the American Legion and the VFW in Smethport and Crosby, presented the colors at the garden.
There is a lot of available land for trails, and they already offer plenty of options for all kinds of vehicles. The owners indicated they are particularly interested in providing a place to both promote the legacy of our freedom and for veterans to come and find some peace.
Majestic Trails said their goal is to de-stigmatize perceptions about mental health and reduce instances of veteran self-harm by not only offering outdoor recreational opportunities to help alleviate stress, but eventually providing onsite clinical services for veterans in need. With grant funding, there would be no charge to the veteran and their family members, said Majestic Trails. They intend to expand their support for veterans through coordination and partnership with the Knowledge Point Network, which has an established veterans’ program in Texas that is a proven model.
Majestic has a lot of work ahead to realize their goals, but it is a perfect venue to facilitate life skills for our heroes and heroes to come. My colleagues and I in state government, and our partners in local government, will do what we can to help them in their efforts.
Being able to enjoy the outdoor beauty through which these trails traverse will be an immeasurable benefit to veterans, as well as the general public.
New Flag and Flagpole Dedicated to Veterans, First Responders by Sykesville Eagles
Photo Caption: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Payton Wheaton and U.S. Army PFC Logan Friesen raise the newly dedicated flag at the Sykesville Eagles Aerie 4454. Photos by Justin Felgar/The Punxsutawney Spirit.
Late last month, I was proud to be present for the Sykesville Eagles Aerie 4454 (Jefferson County) dedication of their new flagpole and flag, which flew over the state Capitol building in Harrisburg, in honor of veterans and first responders.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles is an international non-profit organization uniting fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope.
It was an honor to help the Eagles secure a flag that had been flown over the Capitol. In the short time they have been around in Sykesville, they have donated about a half a million dollars to folks in organizations where there is a need. For them to make the improvements that they have been doing here, including the flagpole, I was very happy to assist them in getting the flag.
My Recommended Read for Veterans in the Month of October
My read for October is Tom Clancy’s “Shadow Warriors: Inside the Special Forces.”
As of the writing of this book, there were over 3,500 Special Operations Forces deployed overseas in some 69 countries.
Their missions range from counterdrug assistance and removing land mines to peacekeeping, disaster relief, military training assistance and many other special mission activities.
Because of their unique skills, they function as instruments of U.S. national security policy and develop relationships with the militaries and governments of host nations in a way that best serves our national interests now and in the future.
Tom Clancy and General Carl Stiner (Ret.) have done a good job of relating the stories, the missions and the capabilities of our special operations community while necessarily omitting things which could jeopardize members, their families or the security of our nation.
What are Vet Centers?
I’ve been asked this question by a number of my fellow vets that question and feel it’s important to provide an answer that those who haven’t reached out yet might have.
VA Vet Centers provide free and confidential readjustment counseling for War-Zone Veterans and their families, World War II to the current Global War on Terror.
Vet Centers are small, non-medical, counseling centers conveniently located in our region. They’re staffed by highly trained counselors and team members dedicated to seeing you through the challenges that come with managing life during and after the military.
Our region is served by the DuBois Vet Center, which is one of 12 Vet Centers in Pennsylvania and over 300 across the country. Whether you come in for one-on-one counseling or to participate in a group session, at Vet Centers you can form social connections, try new things, and build a support system with people who understand you and want to help you succeed. The Dubois Vet Center’ website is designed to provide veterans, family members, and community partners the ability to see what services the center offers, as well as the center’s Community Access Points with a picture of the entrance so first time visitors have a frame of reference to help guide them in.
From my time in the State House through my current position, I’ve had a strong relationship with the Dubois Vet Center. They have helped me help many of my fellow vets.
Two Recreational Therapy Groups Available at the Dubois Vet Center
As part of a national competition, the DuBois Vet Center was approved for initial funding for two recreational therapy groups.
One of the groups is an introduction to fly tying for fly fishing, with one of the center’s counselors being an avid fly tyer and fisherman. The other group is a no sew blanket group, which the center hopes will generate interest from women veterans, but the group is open to anyone who would like to join.
The groups will be held at the Vet Center with approximately 4 cohorts to run quarterly with 6 vets in each cohort. The center says it hopes to grow these groups and potentially be able to have them at the center’s Community Access Points (CAPs) in McKean, Centre and Blair counties, with the possibility of adding more recreational therapy groups in the future.
The center noted the initial funding will help them launch the groups, but they will be actively trying to obtain additional funding they can expand on them.
Who is eligible to receive services at Vet Centers?
Vet Center services are available to Veterans at no cost, regardless of discharge character, and without the need to be enrolled in VA health care or having a service-connected disability. If you are a Veteran or service member, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, you can access Vet Center services if you:
Contacting your local Vet Center
Even if you are unsure if you meet the criteria to receive services from a Vet Center, please contact a center. From personal experience I can tell you that, if the center can’t help you, they’ll find someone who will.
Center services are also available to family members when their participation would support the growth and goals of the Veteran or active-duty service member. If you consider them family, so does your local center. Bereavement services are also available to family members of Veterans who were receiving Vet Center services at the time of the Veteran’s death, and to the families of service members who died while serving on active duty.
The DuBois Vet Center, located at 100 Meadow Lane, Suite 8, DuBois, PA 15801, can be contacted at 814-372-2095 or toll free 24/7 at 1-877-WAR-VETS (927-8387).
The DuBois Vet Center recently announced counseling and referral services are now being provided at the State College American Legion Post 245, in addition to the many services they offer at their locations in DuBois, Altoona, Bradford, Penn State-DuBois, Smethport and their mobile Vet Center.
The other Vet Center locations in Pennsylvania are:
For more information, please visit www.vetcenter.va.gov
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